NEW YORK CITY: The Public Theatre, in collaboration with WNYC, has announced a four-part radio play of Richard II which will be broadcast over four nights, July 13-16. Richard II was originally scheduled to open the 2020 Free Shakespeare in the Park season at the Delacorte Theater. It has now been conceived for radio and is directed by Saheem Ali.
“A fractured society. A man wrongfully murdered. The palpable threat of violence and revenge against a broken system. Revolution and regime change. This was Shakespeare’s backdrop for Richard II,” said Ali in a statement. “I’m exceptionally proud of this production, recorded for public radio with a predominantly BIPOC ensemble, led by the extraordinary André Holland. It’s my hope that listening to Shakespeare’s words, broadcast in the midst of a pandemic and an uprising, will have powerful resonance in our world.”
Joining Holland (King Richard II) will be Barzin Akhavan (Salisbury/Marshall), Sean Carvajal (Gardener’s Man/Surrey), Michael Bradley Cohen (Bushy), Sanjit De Silva (Mowbray/Exton), Biko Eisen-Martin (Fitzwater), Michael Gaston (Northumberland), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Gardener), Miriam A. Hyman (Bolingbroke), Merritt Janson (Scroop), Elijah Jones (Hotspur), Dakin Matthews (Gaunt), Jacob Ming-Trent (Carlisle), Maria Mukuka (Queen’s Lady/Servant), Okwui Okpokwasili (Willoughby/Abbot), Estelle Parsons (Duchess of York), Tom Pecinka (Aumerle), Phylicia Rashad (Duchess of Gloucester), Reza Salazar (Welsh Captain), Thom Sesma (Ross/Keeper), Sathya Sridharan (Bagot), John Douglas Thompson (York), Claire van der Boom (Queen), Natalie Woolams-Torres (Green), and Ja’Siah Young (Groom). The play will feature original music composition by Michael Thurber.
This production, which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. ET on WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 for Tri-State Area listeners as well as on WNYC.org, is being dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement by The Public Theatre. The series will also be available as a podcast for on-demand listening.
“Shakespeare’s masterpiece is both a political and a psychological exploration,” said Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis in a statement. “We are proud to be partnering with WNYC, our sister organization that shares so many of our values, to bring this play to life. We may not have Free Shakespeare in the Park this summer, but we will not let Shakespeare vanish from New York at this crucial time.”
This summer marks the first time in almost 60 years where Free Shakespeare in the Park will not take place. As an additional offering in lieu of an in-person summer season, THIRTEEN’s Great Performances will broadcast an encore of the 2019 summer production of Much Ado About Nothing on PBS on Friday, Aug. 14 at 9 p.m. ET. Directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon and choreographed by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown, this interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy is set in contemporary Georgia in the midst of an election race.
“WNYC is thrilled to partner with the Public Theater, Saheem Ali, and the entire cast to reimagine a hallmark event of New York City summers and present a work of such timeliness and relevance,” said Goli Sheikholeslami, president and CEO, New York Public Radio, which includes WNYC, in a statement. “While the pandemic requires us to remain apart, radio drama offers listeners the intimacy of audio and a way to come together through shared experience. The audio producers and actors worked together to overcome the challenges inherent in socially distanced rehearsals and recording, and the final result is a riveting opportunity to deeply listen and truly contemplate the words of this rarely-produced work.”